This is it, folks. We’ve had fifty… we’ve had fifty-one… now we go one better, with fifty-two slices of movie trivia each more mildly-interesting than the last.
1. Christopher Walken’s real name is Ronald. The Oscar-winning actor, known for his unhinged roles, was named after Ronald Colman – an Oscar-winning actor known for his role as, er, an unhinged actor (in 1947’s A Double Life).
2. Meanwhile, arthouse staple Seymour Cassel gave guitarist Saul Hudson his stage name. As a kid, Hudson was “always on the go zipping from one place to another and never sitting still” – Shadows and Royal Tenenbaums star Cassel dubbed him ‘Slash’.
3. Tyrese Gibson allegedly paid to be in the first Transformers movie. Not the other way around.
4. Adam Sandler’s biggest bomb by some way was not Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People or even Spanglish. It was Little Nicky. And his highest grosser is Hotel Transylvania. Never underestimate the kids’ market.
5. Jon Hamm has an uncredited vocal appearance in A Single Man. As “Jim’s cousin”, whose tragic car crash-related news brings about Colin Firth’s character’s depression, Hamm does what he does best as an actor: cause loneliness and misery in the 1960s.
6. Of Anthony Daniels’ 59 IMDb acting credits, 33 are as C3PO. That’s about 56%.
7. The full name of original Disney villain “The Wicked Queen” (from Snow White) is “Evil Queen Grimhilde”. She was named for Princess Kriemhild, from Middle German epic poem Nibelungenleid – the same source that gave Quentin Tarantino Brünhild/Broomhilda. Now THAT’s a connection!
8. Tim Burton played a Teamster’s corpse in Hoffa. Although in the final cut, Danny DeVito wasn’t laughing.
9. Do the original lyrics “Here’s to you Mrs. Roosevelt, Jesus loves you more than you will know” make any more sense? Director Mike Nichols became so addicted to Simon and Garfunkel’s music while making The Graduate that he requested Paul Simon re-jig a little song he was working on and sing about protagonist ‘Mrs. Robinson’ instead. As Dick Cavett once quipped, “That would’ve changed the plot of the movie… ”
10. There was almost an Austin Powers cartoon on HBO, back in 1999.
11. Who says reality competitions don’t get you places? In 1998, Tom Hardy won now-cancelled UK national treasure The Big Breakfast‘s “Find Me a Supermodel” competition. Three years later he was in Band of Brothers, and the rest is history. Coincidence?
12. Billy Dee Williams was famously axed from Warner Bros.’ Batman franchise in favour of Tommy Lee Jones, despite having already played Harvey Dent in the 1989 film. Well, 25 years later Williams has finally reappeared on screen alongside the Dark Knight, in The Lego Movie. Sadly the closest thing to a Two Face character is played here by Liam Neeson. Maybe next time Billy.
13. He’s played four US presidents and Jack Bauer’s father, was once a black panther and is the tallest Oscar-nominated actor ever, but living legend James Cromwell’s greatest distinction has to be as the only performer in this iconic franchise to have said the titular words on screen: “… and you people, you’re all astronauts on… some kind of star trek?”
14. Audrey Hepburn’s final film role was in Spielberg’s largely forgotten Always. James Stewart’s, somewhat delightfully, was as Sheriff Wylie Burp, an anthropomorphic dog in An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West. Robert Mitchum has the coolest swansong of the lot though, bowing out in style in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man.
15. Quentin Tarantino once tried to sue American Beauty scribe and Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball, driven to distraction by neighbour Ball’s loud parrots. It was resolved out of court in one of legal history’s greatest anticlimaxes.
16. A broke Robert Redford spent his last $500 on two acres of land in Utah in 1960. Of course, five decades later he has 500 acres and holds a major annual festival on it. Learn to invest, kids.
17. Garlanded Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn failed his actual driving test eight times. His famous colour blindness couldn’t have helped.
18. Lauren Bacall was living in Manhattan’s Dakota Hotel at the very time it became infamous for hosting a Beatle-killing. She claimed later to have heard John Lennon’s shooting but assumed it was just a car backfiring.
19. When Ava Gardner passed away in 1990, her dog and housekeeper went to Gregory Peck. We hope he took good care of them.
20. Vera Farmiga’s first language is Ukrainian.
21. Nicolas Cage as Tim Burton’s Superman is old news now. What the world needs to start talking about again is the mid-’90s plans for the Baldwin brothers to play the Tracys in Thunderbirds. Sources suggest this version would have been up to 72% more angry than the original cartoon.
22. The Georges Méliès-inspired music video for Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Tonight, Tonight’ stars voice artist Tom Kenny, aka Spongebob Squarepants, as one half of the story’s adventuring couple. His wife is played by Jill Talley, who also ended up as a Spongebob regular, playing Plankton’s computer/wife.
23. Jim Jarmusch, Nick Cave, John Boorman, Iggy Pop, Josh Brolin, Thurston Moore, Neil Young and Tom Waits are all allegedly members of a secret society known as ‘The Sons of Lee Marvin’. Membership requires a passing resemblance to the late actor, “such that you could be a son of Lee Marvin.” Lee Marvin’s real son has since taken offence.
24. Jessica Alba has a “no nudity” clause in her contracts (one nude scene in Machete was digitally faked). Now that’s class.
25. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is Rotten Tomatoes’ highest-ranked movie based on a video game, with a towering 44%. Super Mario Bros. is higher than you’d think, with 16; and just so we’re clear, the only one with an all-out zero is the wonderful Double Dragon.
26. Helen Mirren’s stack of awards for The Queen is allegedly the largest ever sweep for an actress, totalling 27 gongs for one performance. For a male performer, however, the bar is considerably higher: Col. Hans Landa of Inglourious Basterds netted Christoph Waltz a tiring 35 international honours.
27. Meanwhile, Sean Bean can lay claim to shortest performance ever to win a major award. His SAG, Critics’ Choice and National Board of Review Award victories all came as part of the featured cast of Return of the King – in which he appeared for roughly three seconds. Not bad for about 0.0025% of a days’ work.
28. Daniel Day-Lewis’ first credited film appearance was in Gandhi, in 1982. He’s done 18 films since, which works out at one Oscar for every six roles. Look at him smile.
29. Discounting James Earl Jones’ wonderful reading of “This is indeed a disturbing universe” in ‘Treehouse of Horror V’, Maggie Simpson has been voiced twice, both by double-Oscar-winning actresses: Elizabeth Taylor, in season 4’s ‘Lisa’s First Word’, and Jodie Foster, in season 20’s ‘Four Great Women and a Manicure’. Although if you count Jones, it does make Maggie probably the only character portrayed by both a white woman and a black man on separate occasions. Apart from Bob Dylan.
30. The incestuous world of screen acting is no more pronounced than in TV: three of Mad Men‘s main cast members – John Slattery, Mark Moses and Kevin Rahm – have been desperate husbands on Desperate Housewives. And Mason Vale Cotton has now portrayed the son of a main character in each – Don Draper and Susan Delfino. The more you know.
31. While we’re on “TV actors”, it’s worth noting that ordained minister (yes, that is true) Bryan Cranston was not only a villain in Power Rangers but also the namesake for main character Billy Cranston (aka the Blue Ranger). If all else fails, Bryan’s legacy shall live on through Power Rangers.
32. Great stars have great, simple names like Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Steve McQueen… Lenny Williams. Lenny would’ve starred in Titanic, The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street if Leonardo DiCaprio had followed his agent’s terrible name-change suggestion in the early ’90s.
33. Tom Tykwer, director of Run Lola Run, Perfume and Cloud Atlas, translated the relevant parts of the Inglourious Basterds script into German before shooting. From what we remember of the screenplay itself, the only line Tarantino managed in German himself was “Nein, nein, nein, nein, nein!”
34. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in Field of Dreams.
35. John Travolta turned down lead roles in Days of Heaven, American Gigolo, An Officer and a Gentlemen, and Chicago. So it’s his fault we have Richard Gere.
36. Coraline is the longest stop-motion film ever, at 100 minutes.
37. The original title for Pearl Harbor was Tennessee.
38. Ghostbusters II villain King Vigo was portrayed visually by wrestler and Die Hard man-mountain Wilhelm von Homburg, but his voice was that of Max von Sydow, doing an uncredited dub.
39. As an episode of Scrubs once made very clear, Neil Flynn (The Janitor) was shot on-screen in The Fugitive for trying to arrest Harrison Ford. Fifteen years later, Neil Flynn was once again shot – this time actually by Harrison Ford – in the process of trying to arrest Harrison Ford. That was in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but sadly I can’t find a clip so you’ll just have to go back and watch it. Sorry. It was a terrible, terrible movie.
40. Detractors and defenders alike should be interested to know that as of Dark Shadows, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have done eight films together – same as Scorsese and De Niro.
41. Though many stage names and pseudonyms have been used (Nicolas Coppola does not have an Oscar though ‘Nicolas Cage’ does, for instance), only one completely fictional person has ever been nominated for an Academy Award: step forward Donald Kaufman, completely invented co-writer of Adaptation. Donald shared credit with his brother Charlie, who is very much real and did write the script.
42. Alexander Payne has one sole credit as an actor, playing Oscar Wilde in Wes Craven’s short Pere-Lachaise, one of the segments in anthology film Paris, je t’aime. Payne himself also wrote and directed the segment 14e arrondissement.
43. Jean Dujardin has a French-language comedy band. You can thank me later.
44. And on the topic of secret projects, this delightfully amateurish production that’s had several ORWAV writers in stitches features a young Jeremy Renner. The obscure icing on this trivial cake? This is also Renner’s one and only credit as Foley Artist (the guy that creates sound effects).
45. Christina Hendricks is a natural blonde.
46. Fans of Pixar and Ron Howard’s Cocoon take note: an early subplot for Up involved Kevin the bird’s eggs being used to reverse the aging process. Like so many dismissed subplots, it was scrapped for being “too bizarre”.
47. The above hairpiece cost $20K.
48. Inside Llewyn Davis, despite being heavily informed by the suicide of its protagonist’s partner and featuring a few on-screen drug overdoses, is the only Coen bros. film in which nobody dies.
49. Stay with me on this one. Shirley MacLaine was persuaded by her estranged, Japan-dwelling husband Steve Parker to send him half a million dollars every year between their mid-’50s separation and 1982 divorce, “for the good of the country.” The couple’s daughter has stated that Parker had genuinely convinced MacLaine that he was a government agent being sent into space – Outer Space – on a top-secret mission, to be replaced by a clone that lived in Japan so as not to arouse the Soviets’ suspicions. It’s believed a sincerely patriotic MacLaine thought her money was being funnelled covertly back to the White House. Not a word of this is a lie.
50. The eight films of the McConaissance era – The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club, Mud, The Paperboy, Killer Joe, Bernie, Magic Mike and The Lincoln Lawyer – account for 29% of the actor’s feature film releases, and 29% of his total box office. Most of that money admittedly came from the $387m+ receipts of Wolf, which is by far his biggest hit to date.
51. Madonna has the distinctive honour of winning the Razzies for both Worst Actress and Worst Supporting Actress in the same year, for Swept Away and Die Another Day respectively. Her achievements in Swept Away also earned her Worst Couple, completing the trifecta.
52. Both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton actually learned how to make soap for Fight Club.